Friday, 28 February 2014

Path work

This week has been great, weather-wise, and we have taken advantage of some dry conditions to make some excellent progress with path work in a number of areas:

  • Between 6th green and 7th/16th teeing areas
  • Adjacent to 8th tee
  • Area beside 1st tee
Firstly, and most importantly, I'd like to say a huge thank you to Dennis Roberts, PPGC member and our expert mini-digger operator. Dennis kindly worked for the golf club on Thursday and Friday of this week to help us to restore the paths. If you see Dennis at the club, be sure to buy him a beer at the bar! I'll update this post with a few before and after photos, just to serve as a record of the progress that has been made so far.

Over the next 2 weeks, we hope to continue our progress with this path. The spoil to the right of the path is a combination of rotted woodchip and soil that had contaminated the path. Dennis has graded this area and we should allow it to recover, dry out and, in time, it will revert to grass. The most important thing is that golfers now have a dry, firm path upon which to walk until we manage to cap it off with a suitable surface material. Keep your eyes on the blog for more info.

You will also see that we have made some progress (again, using Dennis' skills) at the path beside the 8th tee. The photos below show what it did look like:

As you will recall, this area was not particularly great to walk through/pull a trolley through. So we asked Dennis to grade it off and ensure that any water that came down this path would feed into a sump hole and drain away into the ditch via a drainage trench. Therefore, Dennis promptly excavated a trench for us, as demonstrated below:

What we will do is to fill the sump hole with gravel and rubble. Then we will install some drainage pipe in the trench, running as far as the ditch. Following this, we will backfill over the pipe with clean pea gravel, top off the trench with some sandy soil and then turf over the trench. We hope to get this work done over the next 2-3 weeks. Just to big Dennis up even more, here are a few photos of what the path looks like now at the 8th tee:

We are extremely pleased with 2 fantastic days of work on the paths and we are hopeful that members and visitors are reassured that the golf club has been really proactive and timely in ensuring that this work is addressed before the start of the season.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Branches galore!

The greenkeepers and volunteer members have spent quite some time over the winter collecting fallen branches, predominantly (but not exclusively) from Silver Birch trees. This is a continuous process that we aim to finish within the next 2 weeks. If mother nature is kind and the winds aren't too strong, we shall hopefully have no more fall.

For the future, we intend to review the woodland on the golf course so that we can minimise the quantity of branches that fall. Careful pruning of branches and woodland thinning, particularly in areas of the course where play is directly impacted, should make a dramatic difference. 

Furthermore, it should improve the integrity of the woodland and should also provide the greenkeeping team and volunteer members with opportunities to focus upon important winter renovation projects such as bunker restoration, course drainage and path restoration.

As it is weekend, I'd like to post a photo of our branch-gathering endeavours from this week, where we have managed to break the back of the woodland between the 3rd and 8th holes.

Leatherjackets - a pest of fine turf

I've already had several members enquiring about crows and magpies pecking at several of the greens. You'll notice that greens 3, 4, 6 and 7 seem to be the worst affected. Today, whilst I was changing the hole locations, I managed to take a few pictures. The picture below demonstrates the pecking on the 7th green.

Although we know that the birds are pecking, it is important to know what it is they are pecking for. Their food source at present is the leatherjacket. Leather jackets (Tipula paludosa) are the larvae of crane fly, or commonly known as daddy long legs. The eggs are laid into the soil profile in Autumn, often between September and October. 

After the eggs hatch, the larvae (see photo below) start to feed on grass shoots and roots. This feeding continues until late summer the following year when the larvae move down the soil profile in order to pupate (develop into the adult). They then emerge as adults in Autumn and so the cycle continues.

We soon hope to spray an insecticide for leather jacket control. This will be carried out when conditions ensure maximum efficacy of the insecticide.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Fusarium - What is it all about?

Okay, so in my last post, I mentioned that we had solid tined the greens last week due to signs of fusarium patch. Like I mentioned, the idea is to keep the surfaces dry and ensure surface water drains away. So, we have a John Deere Aercore 800 (like in the picture below):

This punches solid tines into the green to create a hole for water to drain through. We then mow afterwards to smooth the surface and help to restore playability.

Our aim, as always, is to do the right thing for the golf course and, wherever possible, to ensure golfers enjoy their round. We realise that, on occasion, our work can impact upon surface playability but we strive, at all times, to take the best course of action for the golf course and the members in both the short and long term.

So, what has solid tining got to do with Fusarium? Fusarium (Michrodochium nivale) is a disease of turfgrasses and is commonly seen on golf greens in mild temperatures in autumn, spring and winter (but not limited to these seasons). It is linked with surface moisture (heavy and/or consistent rain for example) and thatch (dead grass shoots and roots). The pathogen can affect a variety of fine turf grass species (fescue, bent, poa) Often, when discussing turf disease, we refer to the disease triangle:

Basically, for disease to prevail, all three factors need to be present. Therefore, a susceptible host (grass), the pathogen (fusarium, in this case) and correct environmental conditions (usually moisture, thatch, poor drainage, adequate fertility) all encourage this disease.

A good analogy is Hay Fever in humans. In the UK, it is possible to be susceptible to this because all 3 factors are present (Human, Pollen, Histamine). Go to the Arctic circle or the Sahara desert and you immediately start to eliminate factors from the disease/affliction triangle. Therefore, we as greenkeepers have to adopt a similar mentality to the golf course to minimise and reduce the onset of Fusarium patch.

My initial impressions of the greens at Poulton Park Golf Club are that they indicate that James Billington adopted good greenkeeping techniques in order to improve the soil profile, improve greens playability, reduce dependence upon fungicides (a sticking plaster approach - in my opinion) and, ultimately, work towards a more sustainable management approach in the long term. I intend to do more of the same. I cannot guarantee perfect greens 365 days/year. But I am committed to ensuring that the greens continue to improve to the best of our abilities and to minimise surface disruption as much as possible.

So, as you are now asking, what does Fusarium look like? Well take a look at the image below and you will probably see it at some stage in the future. 

Lastly, what is the course of action to try and minimise Fusarium? I'll leave you with some bedtime reading:

I'm hoping now that you are all ready for a quiz??!! Let's leave that until I see you out on the golf course! 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Week 1

Hello to everyone and thanks to all staff and members who have made me feel so welcome to Poulton Park Golf Club. I look forward to meeting many more new faces over the next few weeks. 

I've almost completed my first week as Head Greenkeeper and it has been fantastic! Work has been steady with attention being paid to clearing fallen tree branches around the golf course and the clearing of hawthorn and brambles by the ditch alongside the 4th hole. Some stellar work has been done by the club's members through their volunteering. They should be very proud of their work.

Ryan has been helping me to familiarise myself with a new work environment. Since James left the club in January, Ryan has done a great job on the course and I'm sure everyone will acknowledge that. I'm confident he will continue to develop his greenkeeping skills over the next few years and I look forward to assisting and encouraging his career development.

This week, I wanted to get the greens cut to tidy them and to smooth the putting surfaces. We have, however, seen some Fusarium patch disease on several greens. This is linked to the mild, wet weather that prevails at the moment as well as the thatch layer below the greens' surfaces. Therefore, we have also solid tined the greens in an effort to ensure the greens remain as dry as possible and to assist surface water drainage.

This year, I am confident that we can present a well conditioned golf course. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a season of fine weather. In addition, it is my intention  to identify and address areas for improvement on the golf course. It will take time but we will get there.

Enjoy your golf and all the best for 2014!

Air 2G2 Demo - 9th Green

Today, Fine Turf Services kindly gave us a demonstration of the Air 2G2 machine on the 9th green. The machine injects high pressure air into the soil profile that, in turn, causes lateral fracturing of compacted soil.

This also helps with gaseous exchange that is the essential part of respiration. Put simply, roots require oxygen as much as us humans and without it, they struggle! The real positive of this machine is the lack of disruption to the putting surface.

After the demonstration had finished, we could observe no visible effects of the machine having passed over the green. Many thanks again to Will & Ben from Fine Turf Services!